By Catherine Sasman
Ombudsman John Walters will head a panel of three to receive oral and written submissions relating to racism and/or racial discrimination in Windhoek and four other towns in Namibia from 24 July.
Walters said over the last 10 years, his office has received a “disappointing” five complaints of racism or racial discrimination.
“There is a perception that many more incidents of this nature may occur, but are not reported due to either lack of opportunity to do so, or lack of knowledge as to where it may be reported,” Walters said.
The panel will consist of Walters, Nico Horn of the Law Faculty at Unam, and Sampa Kangwa-Wilke of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Regional Head Office.
The hearings will kick off in Windhoek and continue in Keetmanshoop, Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Oshakati.
The panel will look at discrimination in the workplace, appointments, promotions, discrimination in implementing understudy programmes, failure to comply with employment equity legislation, racism in sport, culture and schools, and discrimination and discriminatory practices against farm workers.
Walters added, however, that the scope of the panel could be broader, depending on the submissions made at these hearings.
This, he said, could include submissions on reverse racism – that is, racist discrimination expressed towards formerly advantaged members of society.
Namibia has ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and is required to submit, amongst others, a report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in the legislative, judicial, administrative setups, or other measures adopted to give effect to the convention.
The Namibian Government will have to make a submission to Geneva on 29 and 30 July. Civil rights group, the National Society for Human Rights, has indicated that it will also make its submission.
The Namibian Parliament enacted the Racial Discrimination Prohibition Act in 1991, which criminalizes acts of racial discrimination and prohibits propagation of racial discrimination and the practice of apartheid.
Walters, however, noted that the law does not define racism or racial discrimination.
The Convention’s definition of racial discrimination means “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise on an equal footing of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life”.
Submissions can be made to the Office of the Ombudsman.